The Evolution of Man

Man. Steak. Wine.

Guys usually have their first serious relationship between the ages of 19 and 21. Despite experiencing their first taste of love, they break up with their girlfriends around the age of 23 out of fear of being trapped.

They are out to "sow their wild oats", so to speak, between the ages of 24 and 29. This is just something that they have to do. Therefore, if you're looking for a serious relationship, I wouldn't touch any guys in this age range with a ten-foot pole unless you've found a diamond in the rough or your soul mate. This is when they are ripe for relationship training because, after all, good boyfriends are not born, they're made... By great girlfriends. 

By the time they're in their 30's, they're hormones are a little bit more under control and they're ready to explore having a real relationship. They probably have the basics of a relationship down by now. This is their era of confidence. If they find the right girl, they'll date her for about three years and then propose. (Single men between 32 and 38 are especially hard to find because this is when they're in relationships that could potentially evolve into an engagement and then marriage.) Alternatively, if they haven't found a relationship they will continue to "sow their wild oats." As my friend Lulu says, "Mid-thirties are the new late twenties." This is why women in their late 20's-early 30's are either hit on by guys who are 26 or 42.

For the men who have been unhappily married, their passion usually wanes after 6 to 12 years, around their late thirties/early forties. This could result in a love affair or divorce. In their mid-40's, they mostly want to know that they've "still got it", especially with women in their early twenties. It's all very meaningless and experimental and they're fine with it. They will pretty much date anyone. That is, until they hit their late 40's, when their mortality is flashing before their eyes. And then they realize that they want someone to connect to, someone who gets them, someone who will love them. (If you're not sure how old a man is, check for wrinkles around his ears.)

By the time they're 50, if they're lucky, they will finally know what they want. They evaluate all of their past mistakes and learn from them. They want to wipe the slate clean and find true love, except now they're letting their heart guide them rather than their eyes. 

Well, more or less.

The Greatest Love Story I Know

I don't know what Bonnie looks like, but I know that she had a round cursive handwriting that's classical yet not too serious. She played the piano and was an aspiring photographer. Her father owned an architecture firm. They had a home in the mountains with their own gasoline pump. She was down-to-earth and approachable. She was my dad's ex-fiancée. I've never met Bonnie, but I feel like she was someone who has always been a part of my life.

I learned about her through a bundle of letters that I found hidden in the back of my parents' closet after they divorced. I was sixteen going on seventeen. Like a detective, I arranged the letters chronologically and read them as fast as I could to learn who this woman was and why she was writing to my dad. It didn't take long for me to realize that they were in love. Their chemistry was alive in those letters. My heart swelled with emotion as I read them. I laughed and cried with Bonnie from 1975 until 1981.

October 1981, to be exact, when she sent her last letter–which was also when I was born. This was not a coincidence.

It was written on a note card featuring a bird in a nest, watching over its egg. Bonnie's teardrops had blurred away most of her inked writing. From the pattern on the page, I knew that the blurry splotches weren't due to mere crying but rather a deep sobbing. The writing was barely legible. All I could piece together was that she understood his decision and his newfound responsibilities as a father. In it, she mentioned enclosing a check for $5,000 to help him with his newborn baby, me.

My dad told me the story about Bonnie after I showed him the letters I found—how they met and how he met my mom. He told me that he still loved her and that he was sorry he never apologized to her for breaking her heart. Convinced that their love story wasn't over yet, I devised a plan to write to Bonnie and introduce myself to her. I sent the letter to an address I found on the internet for her father's architecture firm.

Months later, I received a response. The return address was typewritten simply with her last name and address. Immediately, I knew it wasn't her. It was from her niece-in-law, whose husband remembered my dad fondly. She told me the news: Bonnie had passed away in 1994 from breast cancer. My dad was heartbroken. 

We ruminated about this one night in the kitchen.

"You and mom... You were never that happy... Not like you and Bonnie."

"Your mom and I are two different people. We tried but we couldn't get along. We're too different."

"I wish you had chosen Bonnie. You could've had such a happy marriage. Your life would be so different," I sighed.

"I couldn't."

"You chose to spend sixteen years with someone you weren't in love with. Don't you regret it?"

"No, I don't."

"Why not?"

"Because..." he said, pausing for a draw of his cigarette, "I chose you."